Tuesday 22 May 2012

Fat Swan - Review

Fat Swan: The Return Season
Presented by Showqueen Productions
Written by Trevor Ashley and Phil Scott
Directed by Garry Scale / Choreographed by Cameron Mitchell

Reviewed by Catherine Hollyman

Like no other piece of theatre, pantomimes have the ability to divide friendships; couples; families, perhaps even a nation. There’s no middle ground. You either love them or loathe them.

For those who fall under the ‘loathe them’ category, I’d normally tell you to stop reading now and search for a more suitable production.

But Fat Swan is different.

Sure, like any true panto, the cast “contains unemployed actors” (Genevieve Lemon from Billy Elliot and Brendan Moar from Channel 10’s The Renovator); and the lead character asks the audience to give the warning “she’s behind you”.

But unlike most pantos, Fat Swan will have you shouting out obscenities, encouraging the characters to take things to the extreme, and then crying with laughter when they do.

Welcome to the world of adults-only panto.

Trevor Ashley (Hairspray, Priscilla, Diamonds Are For Trevor) plays Natalie Portly, a ballet dancer with self-diagnosed anorexia who dreams of being a star. Her dreams appear to have come true when she is cast as the lead in Swine Lake, playing both the White Pig and the Black Pig.

As the choreographer (Moar) begins to doubt Natalie’s ability, he encourages her to harness her dark side with some ‘exercises’ both with and without him. Natalie’s psychotic mother (Lemon) grows increasingly concerned, not for Natalie’s welfare or even dubious behaviour in the bedroom, but that she won’t become famous. Whilst her lesbian understudy, Mila Kuntz (Danielle Barnes), gets somewhat aroused by Natalie’s naivety and failures, working her into a frenzy of seduction.
If this is sounding rather familiar, then chances are you have seen the much-acclaimed movie Black Swan. If you have, as I had, then you’re likely to find extra layers of fun in Fat Swan than those who haven’t watched Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis in action.

If you’ve not seen the film however, don’t let that put you off. It’s not the comparisons to the blockbuster that make Fat Swan such a success. It’s the energy, the humour, the script, the songs and dancing, the local references to Sydney, the set and use of space, but above all, the cast. Ashley is a master of the stage. He works it – and the audience – like there’s nowhere else in the world he’d rather be. Cool, calm and composed (even when his microphone failed) he plays with mishaps and the audience so they became part of the performance.

Audience participation can be risky, even when it is an integral part of the production, as with panto. An audience can lift the energy to new heights, or squash it. Again, don’t let this put you off. Unless you are sitting at the cabaret tables near the stage, you won’t be singled out. So take a chance, let your hair down and get yourself to the ballet - it’s an evening the likes of which you’ll not find anywhere else.

Booking Information

Dates: run ends 26 May
Venue: Reginald Theatre, The Seymour Centre
Times: 23 & 24 May 8pm; 25 May 7pm; 26 May 6pm
Duration: 1hr 30mins (plus 15mins interval)
Tickets: Cabaret Table $55; General Seating $50; Groups 10+ $45
Book: 02 9351 7940 or online at

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